Brain in a Vat’s debut release, Schrödinger’s Cat is an interesting album that is able to incorporate some very eclectic components, creating an overall heighted effect for listeners new to the whole Electronica and Ambient Techno genre. Hailing from a small village on the outskirts of Dundee, Scotland, the solo artist also lists two of Dundee’s most prolific Rock/Pop bands as credentials. Former ex-bassist to Cerulean Blue and Boomhauer, Brain in a Vat is a solo project where the artist decided to pursue his own musical direction in his debut work, Schrödinger’s Cat. Through the utilization of technology readily available on the Internet and through mixing in acoustic guitar and bass arrangements into his musical compositions, the result is something that oscillates between an electro-industrial based sound to something more melodic.
What is noticeable about the first track to the album is that the volume in turns increases and decreases, reverberating along the lines of bombastic to something less grating. This gives the sound an overall elevated quality. The opener – “Bathed in Plight” – hints at a strong sense of urgency, concocted at a rather theatrical note that becomes prevalent toward the latter half of the album. Toward the second track, “Crash”, the sound is heavier with elements of the fantastical incorporated within the overall dark sound. Yet the extravagant style remains and the decadence eventually begins to resemble something from a Mortal Kombat soundtrack.
The music on this album definitely gets you riled up in that sense but the theatrical sense becomes a little tiring and after a while it may sound formulaic. The track “Dr. Bash”, though it has a more prominent beat, the sound is more refined and less dramatic. The elaborateness gets pared down and the sparseness of these songs eventually begins to show more musicianship. Instead of overwrought tunes, now we begin to see some instrumentals and what evolves is something quite stirring. In “Master Blaster”, the layering of synthesizers is overall very techno with flaring bits and a syncopated backbeat. A spritely overlaying of piano keys makes the piece slightly more dynamic, adding a human touch to the overall electronic escapist style that begins to sound slightly too mechanical and industrial after a while. The track with the same title as the album, “Schrodinger’s Cat” also incorporates the same layering process with the progression of sounds building up to some very pretty melodies. What eventually emerges is a soaring, wistful sound.
As listeners begin to delve deeper into the album what may become more and more apparent is a clashing of expressions. The conflicting sounds – between a more electronic side versus a more melodic style – really works for the benefit of the album when the acoustics and the utilization of technology works together instead of against each other. The music becomes more balanced in that sense. For example, in the song, titled, “Crater”, the energetic spiraling music has a slightly robotic and mechanical sense and the outcome is something rather daunting. Towards the tracks, “Revealed”, “The Copenhagen Equation”, “System Shutdown”, “Skyliner” and “Guilty Pleasure”, the tracks become more honest and forthright in nature.
The closing tracks definitely exhibits something less inhibited than what is exemplified in the opening songs. It could quite possibly be that for the most part people are wary of technology, and the flaring sounds of electronic music may be bringing out something precautionary in all of us, but as Brain in a Vat shows in his debut album that a healthy mixing of electronic and acoustics can sometimes produce something quite startling. This is especially evident on the album closer, “The Lonesome”. The warbling sounds mixed in with percussions and string instrumentals stirs up something ubiquitously unspoken, so that what eventually coalesces in this expert blend of technology and acoustics is something quite gratifying.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Review by My Nguyen